The new Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) system is simpler, but is it easier?
"I think our servicemen should give this IPPT format a try before they come to any conclusions," the Chief of Army, Major-General (MG) Perry Lim, told the media on Wednesday.
So we put reporter Gregory Loo to the test.
A week ago, before the changes were announced by Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen, Mr Loo had failed his annual IPPT.
Mr Loo, 30, had missed out on a passing grade by one second for his 2.4km run.
We also invited four National Servicemen - Mr Cheng S.K., 26; Mr Chng Wei Siang, 27; Mr Ben Ang, 31; and Mr Cheong B.H. 47 - to try out the new system at Toa Payoh Stadium yesterday.
Earlier this year, the four got silver for their IPPT.
Their results from yesterday's trial: Mr Loo scored a pass with 11 points to spare while the four NSmen scored gold.
With the revised monetary incentives - whose implementation date is still unknown - Mr Loo would have got S$200 and the four S$500 each.
Mr Loo (left) said: "The new format might be easier to pass and the standards are more forgiving, but you still have to work for it."
MG Lim had said the IPPT is being changed because it is "timely" to do so, especially after the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) had enhanced its combat fitness programmes.
The new standard obstacle course, vocation obstacle course and vocation-related exercises introduced in previous years mean better operational readiness, he added.
The general said: "We want to change the general perception of our physical fitness requirements from one that is an imposition on the lives of our NSmen to one that encourages our NSmen to make physical fitness and training a part of their lifestyle."
But the question remains: Is, as some perceive, the bar being set too low?
MG Lim said the new system is designed to be simpler and not necessarily easier. "Our servicemen will still need to train for IPPT in order to pass. To achieve gold and silver standards, it would be just as challenging as before."
Dr Bervyn Lee, an SAF Fitness Advisory Board member who had a hand in the creation of the new IPPT system, said it emphasises ownership of one's fitness.
The member of the Committee to Strengthen National Service said: "We shouldn't allow three or five stations to define what is required to be fit.
"I personally feel that my fitness is mine and mine alone, and I need to look after that.
"And we shouldn't need the SAF or anyone to tell us that 'I'm going to test you on these items and therefore you should be fit for only these items'.
"I think we need to define our own fitness."
Difficult to measure
While it would be difficult to measure the general fitness of servicemen with fewer stations, one major consideration is motivation, he said.
"I am glad that they've done this because it motivates people. I think if NSmen were to look at it squarely and think, 'I actually have a chance' and feel more motivated, and through being motivated, want to do more (for their fitness), then that is a good thing," said Dr Lee.
MG Lim told reporters that there will be a dry run of the system from September to November involving 3,000 servicemen and servicewomen of different vocations and age groups.
The full implementation is slated for April 1 next year, he said.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will also be implementing the new IPPT format for Home Team NSmen next year, an MHA spokesman said.
Said MG Lim: "We don't plan to change the scoring system, but based on the outcome of the pilot implementation, we are prepared to adjust the scoring table.
"But we believe that we have a system designed to uphold the standards of physical fitness."